Online sites satisfy patrons' hunger for quick, easy dinner reservations - Part I
February 23, 2007
Picking up the telephone to make a dinner reservation is so passé. Today's savvy diners are using the Internet to secure tables at some of the nation's top restaurants, such as Spago's and Emeril's.
Twenty-three Columbus dining establishments, including Morton's Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick's seafood restaurant and several restaurants in the Cameron Mitchell chain, are members of OpenTable.com - a popular Web site for reserving tables online.
Other companies market table management and reservation software to restaurants, but few competitors offer the Web-based, real-time reservation system provided by OpenTable, say restaurant owners.
Savvy Diner (savvydiner.com), a Seattle, Wash.-based company, has offered a Web-based restaurant referral system since 1987, but the process is not all electronic.
"People go online to make their reservations and then someone from Savvy Diner calls us with the information. That's basically it. We barely get one reservation a month through them," said Michael Singer, general manager of Barcelona Restaurant and Bar, which began using OpenTable 18 months ago.
More than 6,000 restaurants have seated more than 32 million diners through OpenTable since the San Francisco-based company launched the service in 1998, said Ann Shepherd, the company's director of consumer marketing.
Joining the crowd
Columbus establishments started to join the expanding network two years ago and OpenTable expects its site to become more popular in the region, Shepherd said.
Although pricing varies, restaurants pay approximately $1,200 for the OpenTable hardware and software and $1 for every reservation made through the Web site.
The company estimates it takes four to six months for most restaurants to recoup their initial investment costs. After that, the system can make the establishment more profitable by attracting new diners, increasing repeat business and maximizing operational efficiency.
Continue to part 2
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